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The Guitar of Doc Watson

Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award

Remarks upon Doc Watson's Lifetime Achievement Award, accepted in his absence by Mitch Greenhill. Los Angeles, February 7, 2004.

Webmaster's Note: Doc Watson could not attend the 2004 Grammy ceremony where he was awarded the Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award. He asked his agent and friend Mitch Greenhill to accept the award on his behalf. The following are Mitch's remarks.

Doc Watson is mindful and very appreciative of the honor he receives today. He sends his regrets that, owing to his wife’s fragile health, he is unable to attend in person. Rosa Lee, get well soon.

I spoke with Doc earlier this week and asked what thoughts he wished to convey to the Academy and distinguished guests. He began by discussing the crucial help he has received from his wife Rosa Lee and his son Merle, who, if had lived, would have been 55 years old tomorrow. Doc says:

“Without Merle’s and Rosa Lee’s help, I wouldn’t be where I am in my musical career. Rosa Lee and Merle are just as important to what I have achieved as I am.

“And the people who have worked in booking are very important: Ralph Rinzler, Manny Greenhill and Mitchell Greenhill.”

Doc went on to acknowledge musical compatriots: his longtime bass player and producer T. Michael Coleman; Jack Lawrence, who has played with him since Merle died; Merle’s son Richard Watson, Doc’s grandson, who has been performing with him these last few years; and David Holt, with whom Doc received a Grammy last year, his 6th.

I first saw Doc perform a brilliant solo concert back in 1963, at Club 47 in Cambridge, around the time he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. A year later, my late father became his representative, and began the 40-year association between our families. For me, it has been a tremendously rewarding relationship.

Early on, Doc was driven towards two goals: one was to earn a living for his family. His earliest work had been singing in the streets, and then he tuned pianos. As a blind man, he found few opportunities for productive, remunerative work. So he took long bus trips to New York, Cleveland, even the west coast, at first by himself and then with Merle.

In addition to his career, Doc’s goal was to take his Appalachian heritage -- often disparaged in mainstream culture – and share it with and thus have it claimed by the rest of America and the rest of world. He found tremendous satisfaction when people who had grown up in very different backgrounds – from Ivy League universities to rural Africa -- would respond to and be moved by songs that Doc had learned through his family, church and community.

That is what makes today so special and why Doc is so appreciative of this Lifetime Achievement Award.

Thank you.